live by/on (one's) wits

(redirected from living by his wits)

live by/on (one's) wits

To survive or make a living through one's intellect and resourcefulness. When I lost everything, I had to live by my wits, and it made me a stronger, more savvy person.
See also: by, live, on, wit
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

live by one's wits

Fig. to survive by being clever. When you're in the kind of business I'm in, you have to live by your wits. John was orphaned at the age of ten and grew up living by his wits.
See also: by, live, wit
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

live by one's wits

Manage by clever expedience rather than hard work or wealth. For example, Alan's never held a steady job but manages to live by his wits. This expression uses wits in the sense of "keen mental faculties." [c. 1600]
See also: by, live, wit
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

live by your wits

earn money by clever and sometimes dishonest means, having no regular occupation.
See also: by, live, wit
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

live by/on your ˈwits

earn money by clever or sometimes dishonest means: Patrick did not go to college, as expected, but learned to live very successfully on his wits.
See also: by, live, on, wit
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in periodicals archive ?
And so, a vagabond living by his wits became sultan, living in the lap of luxury with the finest food, all the concubines he wanted, countless slaves to do his bidding, and even a special opiate to soothe his nerves.
Most remarkable, perhaps, is Mr Merdle, the giant fraudster who amasses extraordinary wealth and attains to the loftiest of positions quite simply by living by his wits. Never quite knowing what to do with his hands, he is always concealing them sheepishly up his sleeves--as if they bear the trace of an earlier, ungenteel past of manual labour--when not taking "himself into custody by the wrists ...
Most remarkable, perhaps, is Mr Merdle (the French root of whose name should not be overlooked), the giant fraudster who amasses extraordinary wealth and attains to the loftiest of positions quite simply by living by his wits. Sadly, more than a century and half later, the Merdles keep floating to the top of societies worldwide, when not otherwise sinking their economies.
The hero firefighter became depressed when faced with the grind of everyday life after three months living by his wits on the high seas.
A boy living by his wits on the streets, he becomes the most famous sailor the world has ever seen.
But whereas Casanova was broke most of the time and living by his wits, Boswell had money and family standing and paid his own way.
A HERMIT who spent 23 years living by his wits in the wilderness has become a sex symbol since he was locked up.
Living by his wits, he convinced the Philistines he was mad so that he could travel safely.
Earning his living by his wits and by brawn in the wild, Vatanen turns his back on society, in a seemingly unconnected series of comic/tragic episodes: weathering a forest fire in a brook, drunk on home brew; spending one entire night mired in a swamp with a cow and her new calf, another in a shed with a corpse; outwitting a rapacious raven; embarrassing international military forces on maneuvers; tracking down a vindictive bear.